YOU MAY NEED A MURDERER – A film by David Klejwegt (2008)

low-mayneedmurdererLow are something of an Indie rock institution having continued to produce their slow, introspective yet powerful music for the best part of two decades now.

The core of the Minnesota-based band are husband and wife Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, both of whom are devout Mormons although I doubt that you’d guess this from listening to their records.

I suppose their songs could be said to have a certain spiritual quality although not in a ‘praise the Lord’ way. This documentary made by a Dutch filmmaker takes its name from the chilling track Murderer on the band’s 2007 album Drums And Guns which is a song that suggests a pact with the devil rather than cozying up to Christ.

The film  follows the couple in their small ,and boring looking, community in Minnesota and travelling on the road. It presents them as strongly committed to the Church of Latter Day Saints, devoted to their family (they have two young kids) and passionate about their music.

Sparhawk is dour, serious, pessimistic, private and restless. Parker is supportive, stable, pragmatic and homely. He’s the driving force but admits that he has to work at his singing while she is more of a natural talent who never has to practice.

Sparhawk’s religious views are far from conventional.  “God allows us to hurt each other so we can also do great things”, he says at one point and also states that “Nobody is listening to God anymore; the people who say they are, are liars”.

He confesses he was a ‘druggie’ in his youth and it’s by no means clear that he has completely kicked the habit now. Added to this, his recent depression illustrates that his religious faith may give his life a structure but does not give him total peace of mind.

From a musical point of view you have to be thankful for this since the burden of self-doubt contributes greatly to the unique and intense music he writes and performs.

I’m looking forward to watching him confront his demons again when the band play at Teatro Antoniano, Bologna on 11th May. The band’s latest album – The Invisible Way produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, is due out in March.

This video (not from the film) shows the band performing Murderer: